Instead he remained in France to continue making The Dirty Dozen.
For anyone who has seen that epic film I think we know that Brown made the correct choice. Come on think about it… make The Dirty Dozen with Lee Marvin and John Cassavettes or run around in Cleveland to prepare for the 1966 NFL season. Does anyone remember anything that occurred in the 1966 NFL season?
Does anyone remember 1966?
It is worth noting, however, that Brown likely never would have had the chance to be anywhere near the production set of any motion picture had he not played football. The NFL, and all of professional sports for that matter, seems to be a great proving ground for acting, public speaking, and journalism. Based on generalizations from national and local television appearances, even the most middling careers as a professional jock carries more weight than an advanced degree from some of the country’s best universities.
And just like in national politics, correct grammar, syntax and prowess over the language is optional.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum from Brown is Barry Sanders, who had no blockbuster movies or a career as a smiling suit to tackle after 10 seasons of piling up more than 18,000 yards for the hapless Detroit Lions. Instead Sanders acted like a insouciant cool kid who was invited to a party hosted and attended by a group a little beneath his social standing.
Imagine what that conversation sounded like when the Lions called Sanders, then just 31, to ask him why he wasn’t at training camp.
“Hey Barry, it’s the Lions. We’re just calling to see how your summer was going and to see if you were going to come on out to training camp. We have a lot of people here and it looks like it’s going to be a really good time.”
“Yeah, well, we kind of have everyone here and were hoping you’d show up soon since you’re the best guy we have.”
“Yeah, about that… who else is going to be there?”
“Well, it looks like pretty much all the same guys who were here last year. There are a few new guys, but no one you ever really heard of.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty much the same guys that were here last year.”
“Hmmm. Well, if that’s the case I guess I’m just going to go ahead and retire. I was hoping we’d get some new guys to show up that were really good at football, but since it’s pretty much the same guys as before, I’m going to stay home and never play football again. I think it will be much more beneficial for me to be able to walk without a limp when I go out to pick up the newspaper or heading toward the green at the first hole. That’s the thing – I’m just tired of getting the crap kicked out of me.”
“But Barry, you’re a few yards away from being the greatest rusher in football history. Don’t you want to get the record? Wouldn’t it be neat to be able to tell your grandchildren that nobody ever ran for more yards than you?”
“No. I think it will be better to be able to walk. Thanks for the offer and the millions of dollars, though. I really appreciate it.”
Somewhere in the middle of all of this is Tiki Barber, who like Sanders, is just 31 and tired of playing professional football for a living. Like Brown, Barber hopes to have a career in the national media when all of his former teammates report to training camp in the heat and the sweat of July. According to reports, Barber has a very lucrative deal from Disney lined up where he lend his expertise and smile to the television cameras for the occasional football game and on the gabfests like “Good Morning America” and “20/20.”
If all goes well, it’s quite possible that Barber could land a role in something as epic as The Dirty Dozen. After all, he already has a national television commercial for the Cadillac Escalade – filmed on the moody, dark and stylish streets of The City – to his credit. With that, I suppose the endorsement deal from the Concerned Friends of the Environment is out.
Nevertheless, when Barber’s career came to a close after David Akers’ 38-yard field goal knifed through the raindrops and split the uprights at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday evening, the speculation began in earnest. Could that 137-yard effort in a playoff game in Philadelphia really have been his last game? Is he really going to stay retired? Michael Jordan came back – twice. George Foreman couldn’t stay retired, either. Nor could Mario Lemieux.
How could he just walk away?
You see, most people dreamed of becoming an professional athlete and what could be better than being the running back for the football team in the country’s largest city? But Barber says he doesn’t want to be defined by simply being a football player. There is much more to him, he says. Most people -- not just athletes -- don't think this way because they view themselves by the mundane and pigeonholing labels that societies places on people, places and things. Plus, what skews things is that they often really define themselves by what they do. In fact, most of them say that they will not stop playing until they are dragged away.
There lies the contradiction. Most people do not define themselves by their jobs. Instead, regular folks have hobbies or passions that drive them more than just their jobs and work. Why should people whose job is to play football be any different? Why should athletes be held to a different standard?
Why should Tiki Barber have to live out someone else’s dream?
Besides, more people are going to remember Tiki Barber, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders as something other than a football player.